AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Now, a note on the passing of a hero up in the Great White North.

(SOUNDBITE FROM SONG "THE HOCKEY SONG")

TOM CONNORS: (Singing) Hello out there. We're on the air. It's hockey night tonight. Tension grows, the whistle blows and the puck goes down the ice.

CORNISH: Stompin' Tom Connors was a Canadian country folk legend. He died yesterday at age 77. To those of us stateside, this is his most well-known tune. "The Hockey Song" is played at hockey games everywhere.

(SOUNDBITE FROM SONG "THE HOCKEY SONG")

CONNORS: (Singing) And the best thing you can name is the good old hockey game.

CORNISH: But to Canadians, Stompin' Tom was an inspiration because of his naked nationalist pride.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CONNORS: (Singing) C-A-N-A-D-A, tell me, what's a Douglas fir? C-A-N-A-D-A, bet you never heard a bobcat purr.

CORNISH: Brian Edwards was Stompin' Tom's concert promoter.

BRIAN EDWARDS: He was a very patriotic Canadian that actually waved the flag, and that was something we don't see up here. And we do have a national flag and everybody likes it, but you don't see it being waved very often. A lot of Canadian entertainers don't do it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CONNORS: (Singing) But if you don't believe your country should come before yourself, you can better serve your country by living somewhere else.

CORNISH: Tom Connors spent his youth hitchhiking around Canada. He traveled around doing odd jobs and collecting the stories that would become his songs. Here's Connors speaking to the CBC in 2010.

CONNORS: Everything I write about is pretty much about Canada and the places I've been and the people I've met and the jobs they do.

CORNISH: Tom Connors' nickname came from his habit of keeping time with the heel of his cowboy boot. He even carried a plywood stompin' board with him to gigs to keep from damaging the stage. Among Stompin' Tom's many fans, here's one you might not expect, musician Dave Grohl of Nirvana and the Foo Fighters. He first heard Connors' music when he was touring in Canada with one of his early punk bands.

DAVE GROHL: Punk rock was all about walking it like you talk it, and integrity was always something that we measured an artist by. And it just seemed like, how could you be more for real than Stompin' Tom, you know?

CORNISH: Tom Connors released 50 albums and toured Canada until he was 75. He told the CBC he hoped his songs instilled pride.

CONNORS: I would like people, and especially young people, to, when they wake up in the morning, instead of whistling some tune about good ol' Nashville or good ol' somewhere in Texas or something in the United States, that they'd maybe whistle "Sudbury Saturday Night" or something, kind of unconsciously, and say to themselves, hey, we're actually whistling about Canada.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CONNORS: (Singing) (Unintelligible)

CORNISH: Stompin' Tom Connors died yesterday. He was 77.

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